Health processes are designed to heal us when we are sick. But unfortunately, there are situations where unintentional errors in health processes produce adverse effects that cause us new diseases, damaging our health.
In fact, the World Health Organization (OMS) has determined nine areas to improve in order to prevent or mitigate patient harm stemming from healthcare processes. Correct patient identification is the second most important among them: “The widespread and continuing failures to correctly identify patients in hospitals and other medical centres often leads to medication, transfusion and testing errors; surgical operations to wrong patient and other wrong person procedures; and the discharge of infants to the wrong families”.
The most common current identification systems, such as ID wristbands, have only managed to reduce the number of errors by 50%.
The case of Pedro Garcia (the story is real although the name is fictitious) illustrates perfectly this problem. This patient was admitted to a Spanish public hospital for an anal fistula surgery. Once in the hospital, a hospital attendant took him to the operating room, the anaesthesiologist sedated him and immediately came the surgeon and operated him. The surgery went smoothly and, somewhat later, Pedro woke up in his room without appendix; the fistula was still there. What Pedro did not suspect is that on the same day, on the same hospital floor, a person with the same name suffering from acute appendicitis had been admitted. The attendant made a mistake taking the patient to the operating room and, once inside, no proper identity verification protocol was implemented.
The most serious consequence of an identification error is definitely the damage to the patient’s health, but it is not the only one. It can also lead to an additional expense for the hospital. In Pedro’s case, the hospital not only had to perform a new surgery with more medication and nights of hospitalization, but it also had to pay for the legal defence against the lawsuit filed by the patient, and the subsequent compensation dictated by the judge. To all this, we must add the damage to the second victim of the situation: the second-year resident who performed the surgery.
With the aim of solving this problem, UMANICK has developed a secure patient identification solution, UMANICK Identity for Health, that works specifically to avoid patient harm stemming from identification errors in healthcare processes at hospitals and medical centres.
UMANICK Identity for Health is a complete suite of multi-biometric and multi-modal software that uses the most advanced biometric technologies: fingerprint, iris, face, and voice recognition. Biometrics is the only way to unequivocally, safely and securely identify a person as a unique individual. Patients are identified by their biological characteristics when entering the hospital or medical centre and before any medical procedure.
Also, UMANICK solution is fully integrated with the hospital or medical centre processes and information systems (HIS, EMR, or other), through health standard HL7 and web services API.
UMANICK solution has recently been implemented with great success at the Onco-Hematology Day Hospital of the University Hospital Virgen de la Arrixaca in Murcia, one of the most important Spanish hospitals with around 900 beds.
For three months, from January 1 to March 31 2016, UMANICK has carried out, together with the Murcia Health Service, a pilot project to study the impact of biometric identification in improving patient safety and healthcare processes in this Day Hospital. The objective of the experience was to improve patient safety and streamline healthcare processes; in addition to offering greater comfort, confidence and peace of mind to both professionals and patients.
The project, part of the FICHe programme (Future Internet Challenge eHealth) of the European Commission, was very well received, both by patients and clinical staff. Some 1,400 people registered to participate voluntarily in the study, exceeding initial expectations by far, and about 250 surveys were conducted among patients and 60 among healthcare workers.
From the analysis of the surveys, it can be concluded that most patients think that biometrics is beneficial for them and biometric identification systems are safer and more accurate than usual identification systems (wristbands, cards, etc.). Also, most of them believe that biometrics are the best identification method for the Day Hospital, especially in the admission, blood extraction, medication administration and blood transfusion processes. Respondents also highlighted that the system is fast and convenient.
In the case of medical practitioners and other clinical staff, almost all of them believe that biometrics are the safest way to identify patients and that protect better the privacy of patient data. The vast majority would recommend patients to use it and would extend it to other areas of the hospital.
The excellent results obtained led the Murcia Health Service and the Hospital Management to decide to keep the system permanently in the Day Hospital, as the only method to identify patients, and to extend its use, starting with Outpatients, with the idea of making it available to the entire Murcia Health Service hospital network. With these actions, the Murcia Health Service takes the lead in the use of these innovative solutions in the Spanish healthcare sector.